What Is Stock Footage? How To Use It?

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What Is Stock Footage?

Stock footage, also known as stock video, is pre-recorded footage that can be licensed and used in various media projects. This footage can include everything from natural landscapes and cityscapes to people in various settings and even special effects and animations. It’s available for licensing on stock footage sites, such as Artgrid and Pond5, and some stock photo sites, such as Shutterstock or Envato Elements.

Why use stock footage?

Stock footage is a valuable resource for filmmakers, video editors, and other content creators, as it allows them to add visual interest to their projects without the need to shoot new footage. Some filmmakers refer to these shots as “b-roll,” meaning all the secondary shots and takes that are necessary for the project’s storytelling flow.

Using stock footage is:

  • Cheaper
  • More convenient
  • Faster

For example, a story might be centered in a house’s living room, but if you want to place the action in Venice, you will need a clip of an iconic Venice location in the final edit to contextualize the storyline. Instead of commissioning a crew to shoot this b-roll scene, which would be very expensive, you can buy a stock footage clip of Venice outdoor scenes and include it in your edit. This is simpler, cheaper, and faster.

Stock footage is used in many ways in film and video production. You can see it many times throughout the day in films, TV, documentaries, adverts, and much more. The views of a city’s skyline that precedes the next scene in the movie you watched? Stock footage. The perspective shot of a building that introduces the next segment of your favorite TV show? Stock footage. The wide-angle takes of the African Savanna in the latest documentary? Yes, stock footage too.

Stock footage is meant to fit in larger productions seamlessly, and that’s why it’s hard to tell when it’s being used. It is a great way to save time, money, and resources in getting secondary or “filling” shots for a larger production.

How to use stock footage?

Stock footage refers to pre-recorded video and audio clips that can be licensed and used in various projects, such as films, TV shows, commercials, and online videos. To use stock footage, you typically need to purchase a license from a stock footage provider. Once you have the license, you can download the footage and edit it into your project.

The specific steps to using stock footage can vary depending on the provider and the license you purchase, so it’s important to read and follow the instructions provided by the provider carefully. Some providers may also have usage restrictions or guidelines you’ll need to follow. It’s also a good idea to preview the footage before purchasing a license to ensure that it will meet your needs and fit well with your project.

Types of Stock Footage Licensing

Stock footage licensing refers to the different ways in which stock footage can be legally used by a licensee. Some common types of stock footage licensing include royalty-free licensing, rights-managed licensing, and creative commons licensing. Each type of licensing has its own set of rules and restrictions regarding how the footage can be used and how long it can be used for.

Royalty-Free video

Royalty-free stock footage refers to pre-recorded video footage that can be licensed and used multiple times without paying additional royalties. This footage can be used in various media projects such as commercials, films, videos, etc. A license is typically granted for a specific use, and the terms of the license will vary depending on the stock footage provider and the specific clip being licensed. It allows for cost-effective and readily available visual content for content creators.


  • More cost-effective than other options
  • Readily available
  • No need for extensive negotiations or clearance processes


  • More generic and less unique than other types of stock footage
  • Has limitations on usage
  • It may be exclusive to certain platforms or vendors.
  • It’s important to read the license agreement before using the footage to ensure it aligns with the intended use of your project.

Right-Managed video

The rights-managed video refers to pre-recorded footage that is licensed for a specific use, and the license terms are negotiated between the stock footage provider and the licensee. This type of footage is often considered more exclusive and unique as the licensing agreement is tailored to the project’s specific needs.

Unlike royalty-free stock footage, rights-managed video is typically licensed for a specific use and for a specific period of time and cannot use the footage again without purchasing another license. The cost of a rights-managed license varies depending on the intended use of the footage, such as in a commercial or non-commercial project, and the length of time the footage will be used.

Rights-managed video is a must for content creators looking for unique and exclusive footage that is not readily available in a royalty-free stock footage library. However, it’s important to note that the negotiation and clearance process for this type of footage can be more time-consuming and expensive than royalty-free stock footage.


  • Unique and exclusive footage that is not readily available in a Royalty-Free Stock Footage library
  • Tailored to the specific needs of the project


  • More time-consuming and expensive than using a royalty-free license
  • The negotiation and clearance process is more complex
  • Typically licensed for a specific use and for a specific time period
  • It can’t be used again without purchasing another license
  • The cost of a rights-managed license may vary depending on the intended use of the footage.

Free stock footage

Creative Commons (CC) stock footage refers to video and audio clips that have been made available for use with certain legal restrictions and guidelines. These clips are often free to use, but they may have certain requirements or restrictions, such as crediting the original creator or not using the footage for commercial use.


  • It’s typically free to use, saving a lot of money on production costs.
  • A wide variety of footage is available, including high-quality footage that can be used for professional projects.
  • Using CC stock footage can be a great way to support independent creators and filmmakers.


  • The footage may be of lower quality than that of paid stock footage providers.
  • The footage may have usage restrictions or guidelines you’ll need to follow, such as giving credit to the original creator or not being able to use the footage for commercial purposes.
  • Some creators may not have granted commercial use rights, so you’ll need to use the footage the way you intend before downloading it.
  • It might be harder to find exactly what you’re looking for, and it may take more time to find the footage you need.

Where to Find Stock Footage

There are several options available for finding stock footage. Some popular options include:

Unlimited downloads stock footage sites

These sites allow users to purchase a subscription or membership, which grants them access to a vast library of stock footage that they can download as many times as they need. This can be a cost-effective option for content creators who need to use stock footage frequently.

The best unlimited stock footage download sites include Envato Elements, Artgrid, and Videvo.

Stock video sites

These sites offer a variety of stock footage for purchase on a per-clip basis. Users can search for specific footage, preview the clips, and purchase the ones they want to use. They are generally more expensive, but they also have larger libraries of videos, often of higher quality.

The best stock video sites include Pond5, Shutterstock, and Adobe Stock.

Free stock video sites

These sites offer a limited selection of stock footage that is available for free. Some sites may require users to give credit to the creator, while others may have some restrictions on usage. This free footage can be a good option for content creators on a tight budget, but it’s important to be aware that the selection of footage may be limited and the quality may not be as high as paid options.

People Also Ask

How does stock footage work?

Stock footage refers to pre-recorded video content that can be licensed for use in film, television, advertising, and other media. Individuals and companies can purchase a license to use the footage in their own projects, rather than shooting the footage themselves.

How is stock footage made?

Stock footage is typically created by professional videographers or production companies. They record footage on various topics such as nature, cityscapes, people, and events that can be useful for different types of projects. The footage is then edited, color-corrected and made available for licensing.

How do you legally use stock footage?

To legally use stock footage, you must purchase a license from the copyright holder of the footage. The license will specify the terms of use, such as how long the footage can be used for, in what medium it can be used, and whether or not the footage can be used for commercial purposes. It’s important to read the license agreement carefully and abide by the terms of use.

What is a stock footage site?

A stock footage site is a website where stock footage is made available for purchase or download. These sites typically offer a wide range of footage on various topics and in different formats, such as HD and 4K. Some popular stock footage sites include Shutterstock, Getty Images, and iStock.

About your guide

Matic Broz profile image
Matic Broz

Matic Broz is a multifaceted creative professional, with experience as a photographer, graphic designer, and business owner. He has a decade of experience in helping other creatives improve their craft and start their own businesses. His writing and research have been featured in notable publications such as The Guardian, PetaPixel, and USA Today. Additionally, his scientific research has been recognized with a cover feature in the prestigious MDPI-owned journal. In his leisure time, he enjoys photography, hiking, and spending time with dogs. Read more

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